An NEF Day at Elmwood Elementary School

At NEF’s recent Annual Appreciation Breakfast, Tara Bradbury, Social Worker at Elmwood Elementary School, offered her own unique perspective about NEF. She originally thought she would talk about one particular NEF Annual Grant Award that she received last year but she came to realize that her grant was just one of many ways in which NEF impacts students at Elmwood throughout the day. Tara takes us through a typical school day and points out a range of programs which are available to District 203 students because of NEF’s support.
She brings to life the breadth and depth of what NEF provides in an approach which we found so intriguing that we asked her to allow us to share it with everyone. Join us in Tara’s time travel to see what NEF helps accomplish over the course of not just one, but every school day! (The story below is adapted from her speech but if you want to hear it firsthand, scroll to the bottom of the page or use the link to the right to jump directly there.) Thank you, Tara, for your contribution to District 203 families and your support of NEF!0″
Click here to jump to Tara Bradbury’s speech
You can’t learn if you are hungry
8:00AM – The majority of students start their day with breakfast at home, but a surprisingly large number arrive at school without having enjoyed that important meal, perhaps not having eaten since dinner the night before.
It may be surprising to learn that this is an issue for District 203 but 14.7% of our students are from low-income homes. With NEF’s support, the Breakfast Program makes it possible to provide morning snacks to well over 1,000 students each week!
A recent article about the importance of good nutrition during childhood states: “Diet has a pervasive and profound impact on human health. Specific nutrient inadequacies during childhood can affect brain development and have lifelong health consequences, including cognitive effects.” *.
* “Breakfast and the Achievement Gap Among Urban Minority Youth” , Charles Basch, 2011
Never too young to learn how to deal with stress
11:00AM – A third grade class is learning about stress and anxiety as part of the health curriculum. It’s a good thing since they soon will be taking Illinois Standard Achievement Tests (ISATs) for the first time.
The stress and anxiety unit is co-taught by a social worker and a teacher awarded an NEF Annual Grant entitled “From Stressed Out to Chilled Out — An Anxiety Prevention Kit for the Classroom”. This grant provided funding to create a kit for the classroom containing various tools such as stress balls, a noise machine with relaxing music, yoga cards, a relaxation CD with guided imagining and a tool kit with various other calming strategies.
Now instead of listening to a lecture about relaxation techniques, students are able to try out different techniques to find out what works best for them.
The social and emotional well-being of students is foremost in parents and teachers minds. Teachers report that students are happy to access these tools in the classroom and less students have needed support during times of stress/anxiety as they can apply their own personal coping strategies within their classroom setting.

From running track to helping students keep on track

1:00PM – The cross country track team from North Central College is working with the kindergarten students to help keep them “on track” with their reading skills.

This started out with an NEF Annual Grant Award given to one of District 203’s kindergarten teachers in 2011, but continues today based on having forged a successful and mutually beneficial relationship for NCC athletes and our students.

A little extra help for those who need it
2:30PM – The dismissal bell rings and the majority of our students head home, but two days each week an average of 500 students across District 203 stay after school to attend Study Skills Academy.
Study Skills Academy is a free academic intervention and tutoring program for students which is funded entirely by NEF.
Students work in small groups with teachers to boost their academic skills through a variety of instructional interventions and provide them with homework help.
Not everything happens in the classroom
24/7/365 – NEF continues to serve students well after the last student heads home. Here’s just one example…
A 3rd grade student with significant cognitive delay was struggling with behavior that sometimes made it difficult for her to participate in the classroom. Her family was extremely limited financially, so there was not anything extra in the family budget to allow her to participate in alternative therapies or extracurricular activities. The attentive team working with her noted that she had an interest in animals which triggered a unique idea. The team was awarded a grant from the Kid Booster Anonymous Fund to cover Equine Therapy (horse therapy) over the summer – an experience this student continues to talk about long after.
Kid Booster Anonymous Fund provides grants for students to participate in activities or receive services that their family cannot afford. Grants are requested by school staff to provide transportation, attend counseling services, participate in sports or park district programs and get needed health or dental care.
Tara’s closing comments are better than anything we could add… “So there is a snapshot of a day in the life of NEF — providing funds for food, academic assistance, tutoring, innovative programming, therapies and health care. “However, NEF truly offers more than funding — it offers hope and hope is important. Providing students at risk with extra programs and organizing school schedules to meet the needs of those students requires a community committed to improving the lives of all students. “Sheehan and Rall suggest in a 2011 article: ‘The real problem for children in poverty may not be weak academic skill sets, poor teachers, or lesser resources, but rather a lack of hope that they can alter their life conditions through effort.’ NEF provides hope to students, staff and families in District 203. I for one am very thankful.”

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